Latter-day Saint Meetinghouse in Ukraine Used as Refugee Station
Kym Reichart and Raphaela Hasse of Schwabmünchen, Germany, have delivered relief supplies to a chapel in Lviv, Ukraine, many times in the past two months.
The parish hall of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Lviv serves not only as a collection point but, according to Reichart, a place where people “can draw strength before they continue to the border, as most refugees only stay two or three nights.”
When Reichart heard about the need for drivers to transport supplies to Ukraine through a local businessperson, she felt compelled to offer her services. Her father assisted with the Berlin airlift in 1949.
She and Raphaela took turns driving the 14 hours in a private van from Germany to the border town of Lviv and then another hour to get to the Church building. Reichart counts it a blessing that she was driving a private transport as rented vans cannot cross the border. Once there, she obtained contact information for President Aleksandr Cheban of the Ukraine Kyiv/Moldova Mission. He let Reichart know exactly what the refugees needed. At first, it was sleeping bags, mattresses, blankets, and drying racks for clothing. Now it is canned food and medical supplies.
Some refugees who arrive daily in Lviv and in Dnipro are exhausted emotionally and physically from their traumatic journey through a war zone. Many are malnourished and need a place of safety and rest before they continue to new destinations.
“Each room of the Church building has been transformed, including the chapel area, to house the refugees,” said Reichart, who leads the women in her German congregation. Local Church leaders and members in Lviv come every day to clean and help. Even the baptismal font has been converted into a shower area with schedules for its use.
In cooperation with other humanitarian agencies, relief supplies are also distributed from the Church building in Lviv. One woman who has lived in Lviv and earlier survived the nuclear catastrophe in Chernobyl, cleans the parish hall every day for arriving refugees despite her disabilities. Reichart said a bus from Poland offers free transportation for refugees into that country. The bus company tells refugees that if they can make it to Lviv, they can be fed and sheltered in the Church building before traveling to Poland.
Reichart said she wants Latter-day Saints around the world to know what is happening.
“When we live in safety, I hope we do not get comfortable with our security,” she said. “The need is still there and does not go away in the short term. It is a long haul for so many.”
Stakes (dioceses) in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria have partnered with branches (smaller congregations) to meet the specific needs of refugees traveling out of Ukraine. Branch leaders can communicate with partner stakes about what is needed where, and members can respond appropriately.
Refugees typically take a northern, central, or southern route out of Ukraine, with gathering hubs available near or at the borders and a warehouse in Germany where humanitarian supplies are stored. Stakes have provided transportation, supplies, and short-term housing for member volunteers. Some Church meetinghouses have become places for Latter-day Saints and friends to find respite from their flight out of Ukraine and eventual social integration into new communities, if desired. Many opportunities arise to connect with local charities and specially to love, share, and invite.
“It is humbling to be a part of the Lord`s storehouse here in Europe, which enables the practical arm of the Church to meet some of the needs of members and friends throughout the world,” Reichart concluded. “The Lord’s storehouse is people who willingly devote their time, talents, skills, or material means to help others. They are people who serve with compassion and Christlike charity regardless of race, religion, or situation.”
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